Practicing Democracy

In order to practice democracy, we must be active participants in the day to day conduct of government. County and city commissions, committees and other advisory bodies are essential government organizations that provide avenues for public participation in local government.

Santa Cruz County Code underscores the importance of these public bodies:

“The public’s trust in their government may be sustained only as long as the public remains involved in the deliberations essential to responsible decision-making by that government. The Board of Supervisors wishes to preserve this public trust by openly seeking advice, ideas and recommendations from the citizens of the County.” SC County Code: 2.38.020

Unfortunately, as I struggle to preserve and defend what’s left of the natural world in Our Fair County, I increasingly encounter local government staff and elected representatives who are either unaware of the importance of public participation, or who choose to limit public participation in the name of expediency and efficiency.

The Ralph M. Brown Act, California Government Code Sec. 54950-54963, is one of the most important, and one of the most widely misunderstood, documents in California state, county and municipal governments governing conduct in meetings of public bodies.

54950. In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly. The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

Brown Act (Gov. Code Sec. 54950-54963)

The intent of the Brown Act is to insure that governmental bodies conduct their business in the full light of the public’s day, with open doors, publicly accessible meetings, and documented records of the governments’ business.

Unfortunately, not all members of advisory bodies and government staff are aware of governing legislation, such as the Brown Act, county and municipal codes, and advisory bodies’ own by-laws, that inform their conduct. This situation leaves the body open to manipulation and misdirection by staff appointed to support and serve them, whether intentional or not.

The result has been the morphing of some of these bodies from advisory and decision-making entities into rubber stamps for staff initiated programs and policies. Limitations on public participation in advisory body meetings stills the public’s voice and discourages the public’s duty to monitor and comment on the course of government activities.

For example, the County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services provides staff support to the County Parks and Recreation Commission, as directed by County Code:

2.70.040 Organization and procedures.

(B) Staff Support. The Department of Parks, Open Space, and Cultural Services shall provide staff support for the Commission. The Director of the Department, or their designated representative, shall serve as the Administrative Secretary to the Commission and shall receive copies of all minutes, reports and recommendations submitted to the Board of Supervisors by the Commission.

Parks Department staff have gone beyond their legislated duties and have taken over the preparation of the Parks and Recreation Commission agendas. Among other unilateral changes, they have identified agenda items as Action Items or Information Items, even though there is nothing in County Code, the Commission’s By-Laws or the Brown Act that make this distinction. Furthermore, staff has unilaterally dictated, without consultation with Parks and Recreation Commissioners, that Commissioners may not make a motion on Information agenda items, and that public participation in Commission meetings be limited to Oral Communications at the beginning of the meeting and only on identified Action Items during the remainder of the meeting.

These limitations on public participation in Commission meetings are not found in County Code or the Commission’s By-laws, and they are directly contradictory to Section 54954.3 of the Brown Act:

54954.3 (a) Every agenda for regular meetings shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any item of interest to the public, before or during the legislative body’s consideration of the item, that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the legislative bodyEvery notice for a special meeting shall provide an opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body concerning any item that has been described in the notice for the meeting before or during consideration of that item.

(c) The legislative body of a local agency shall not prohibit public criticism of the policies, procedures, programs, or services of the agency, or of the acts or omissions of the legislative body. Nothing in this subdivision shall confer any privilege or protection for expression beyond that otherwise provided by law.

The County Board of Supervisors, as a body, due to lack of oversight, has allowed many of their commissions to drift from their original brief. The absence of oversight from the Board of Supervisors and municipalities has created disparities in the conduct of advisory bodies that are confusing to the public attempting to participate in the proceedings. In the interest of participatory democracy, I urge the Board of Supervisors to develop a handbook for commissioners and committee members, and support staff, that clearly delineates member and staff duties and responsibilities, public participation in meetings, and the state, county and municipal legislation that codify local government advisory body actions.

While the County Board of Supervisors and the city councils are ultimately responsible for the advisory bodies they have created, it is up to the citizenry to impress upon local government that advisory body meetings are to be conducted according to established state, county and municipal codes, and that public participation in county government must not be limited by staff fiat.

“There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.”
— Ralph Nader

Language Creep

The proponents of the above named structure have engaged in a six-year tirade of trammeled arguments in support of the City of Santa Cruz plan to demo the 50+ year old Downtown Public Library building in favor of building a modernistic 21st Century glass and steel erection several blocks away. Though touting a “Green Building” result, they have continually ignored the environmental consequences of destroying a perfectly usable building and hauling it off to the dump. Then, to top that ringer, they plan to build an architect’s wet dream that will consume far more cement, steel, glass, wood and other miscellaneous products and produce tons of new atmospheric CO2 in the process of mining, manufacture, transportation and construction.

And what will happen to this gleaming folly after the next 50 years?

The powers-that-would-be are so nervous about those of us questioning the project, with statistics, data, scientific studies and a citizen’s initiative, they have resorted to the propagandistic “nudge-nudge, wink-wink” dodge of changing the name of the project several times as its fallacies were pointed out to them.

Do they really think the public is so naive and unaware that an architectural funny nose and glasses and tricksy nicknames will fool us into thinking they’re following the will of the people and their own avowed environmental pretensions?

Language creep is as language creep does.

Thanks to Our Downtown, Our Future for the image!

Limit Human Population Growth Hereabouts

Discussing limits to human population growth is always fraught with controversy and misunderstanding. In 2004, the Sierra Club fractured over disagreements on population control policies, and even today maintains an anti-population control stance, based on a misconstrued “Overpopulation Myth”. Their interpretation, shared by many so-called “Progessives” is that patterns of human consumption of natural resources, not absolute human numbers, are responsible for climate change and other environmental ills.

Nevertheless, no matter how low one reduces one’s personal consumption, population growth trumps reduction in per capita consumption. 7 billion times 10 is the same as 10 billion times 7. Reducing human impacts on the natural world requires both consumption reduction AND limits to population growth.

While the rate of human population growth is slowly decreasing in some countries, of necessity, overall human population is still increasing and we are still too many to be supported on this planet. We must reduce our numbers considerably and achieve zero population growth overall at a sustainable total population.

The 70s Zero Population Growth slogan was “Stop at Two”. That was then. Now we have to look at a global population goal of “Stop at One”, real replacement level. That means each individual can be responsible for only one child, no matter how many serial relationships one is involved in. We each get to bring one new life into this world.

Getting from here to there is extremely difficult, since humans have the same reproductive imperative as any other species. It’s natural for us to want children, and until recently, having large families was important for economic success and support for elderly or infirm parents.

The argument that population limits are racist ignores the fact that there are too many humans on this planet in general, regardless of how they are distributed across its surface. Population limits are necessary everywhere, not in some countries but not others. Reduced resource consumption is needed everywhere, by everyone, not in some societies but not others.

Beyond unsustainable consumption, human population growth creates a myriad of additional social problems. In every society there are people who do bad things, people who take advantage of others, people who seek power and control over others, people who have mental problems, people with drug addictions, people who never learned to get along with others. In the bell curve of human diversity, a percentage of the people in any society ignore local morals and ethics, engage in criminal behaviors or lack necessary medical or psychological professional care.

One percent of one million is 100,000. One percent of 10 million is one million. As population increases the total number of antisocial individuals increases, creating more and more problems for local governments and residents.

The social and environmental problems we encounter here in Our Fair County are the result of rapidly increasing population and economic growth over the past twenty years that I’ve lived here, resulting in increasing homelessness, petty crime, assault and murder, and a multiplicity of sirens splitting the air throughout the day and night. Add to that traffic congestion, resource limitations, and increasing government size and complexity, as we build a society that cannot continue on this course indefinitely.

What to do?

  1. Education: The stigma of population limits must be removed from the minds of residents, voters and government officials. Residents must become aware of the consequences of unlimited growth on our communities and on the natural world upon which we depend. Principles of sufficiency, humility and conservation must be taught to children and adults at all economic and social levels.
  2. Government reform: Government incentives and encouragement for population and economic growth must end.
  3. Economic Development: The mindset of Economic Development departments, if there need be any at all, must change from growth for the sake of growth to steady state economics. The insane push to build more and more multi-story residential towers must be thwarted and disallowed.
  4. Politics: We must encourage and support candidates for City Councils and County Board of Supervisors who understand the degrowth imperative and are willing and able to stand up against city and county staff pushing for more and more population and economic growth.
  5. Localization: Political and economic power must be dispersed throughout the populace, out of the centralized hands of politicians and economists meeting behind closed doors. Neighborhood and avocational assemblies must become meaningful, legitimate avenues for public participation in local government, no longer perfunctory rubber stamps to ratify foregone decisions.
  6. Finally, bioregionalism (See HERE, HERE and HERE) must become the primary principle for all political, economic and environmental decisions, from neighborhoods to city and county governments. It is only at the regional level, defined by our unique environments, that truly sustainable government and personal decisions and plans can made and implemented.

If we are to build and maintain a sustainable life here in this county/bioregion, we must not violate the basic natural principles of ecology, biology and geology that allow all life everywhere to continue.

When Degrowth Comes to Our Fair County

I’ve noticed an increase in articles and books lately on the subject of reducing human consumption, steady state economies and what has come to be called degrowth.

For example:

Must We Grow? by Michelle Nijhuis, in the New York Review of Books, and the video, The Great Simplification.

“Degrowth emphasizes the need to reduce global consumption and production … and advocates a socially just and ecologically sustainable society with social and environmental well-being replacing GDP as the indicator of prosperity.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth

Here in Our Fair County, we are deeply mired in the consumer growth economy. Garages are rarely used to store cars, with piles of purchases pushing up the rafters with stuff that won’t fit in the house. Store shelves groan under eleventy-bazillion varieties of things that we only need one of, if any. Advertising pervades every medium, exhorting the purchase of things and services we would never have thought of buying had they not been thrust at us unbidden.

The myth of necessary and inevitable economic and human population growth overwhelms our local culture. Our county and city governments are based on the premise of unlimited growth. Our state government passes laws demanding that counties and cities plan for growth with no consideration for local resource limitations, geographical realities or unique histories and cultures.

The cost of housing is increasing astronomically, as home owners and landlords demand sale prices and rent as high as the market will bear, such that only rich people who don’t already live here can afford to live here. Hundreds of people roam unhoused in Our Fair County, unable to afford even a tiny apartment in a real estate industry gone mad with greed.

There are many reasons why the economy of the United States, and most of the rest of the world, is dominated by the mythology of perpetual growth. The Great Simplification video linked above explains the evolutionary and cultural reasons why we humans hoard beyond any semblance of need.

The question is, how to get off this out-of-control treadmill before it collapse in its own inevitability, taking us, and much of the natural world down with it?

IMPACT = POPULATION X CONSUMPTION

There are two ways we can reduce our collective destruction of the natural world:

  1. Reduce per capita consumption
  2. Reduce human population growth

Reduce Personal Consumption

Since most everything in our world encourages us to consume to profligacy, to reduce consumption we must relearn how to live with less, rather than learning to live with more. Here’s a few suggestions. We may not each do all of these things, but we can each do something:

  1. Limit exposure to advertising in popular mass media – broadcast television and radio, newspapers and magazines. Install an ad blocker on computers and smart (sic) phones.
  2. Enjoy walking, bicycling or public transit rather than sitting in a car; travel by train in luxery rather than packed like sardines in an airplane.
  3. Enjoy living locally so you don’t need a vacation. Learn about the natural world that surrounds you and your home.
  4. Learn a skill, profession or craft and engage in meaningful work to produce needed goods and services. Learn how things work, how to diagnose problems and how to fix them.
  5. Learn how to repair rather than replace. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.
  6. Learn gardening and permaculture in your own bioregion. Grow food. If you water it, eat it.
  7. Enjoy simple, nutritious meals made with local ingredients.
  8. Avoid credit cards, loans and corporate investments. Build savings accounts in local banks, where you money supports your local community.
  9. Make a challenge of lowering your utility bills as much as possible:
    1. Learn how to use water sparingly and reuse it whenever possible. Learn to capture rain and fog water for irrigating your gardens. Wash dishes by hand and give the dishwater to plants.
    2. Learn how to use electrical devices sparingly and turn off everything electric when not using it. If it has a light that glows in the dark, unplug it when not in use.
    3. Learn passive solar heating and cooling, window and curtain management, appropriate seasonal clothing, less dependence on automatic temperature management. Live with the seasons.
  10. Share, barter and trade with neighbors and friends. Start a local free table. Frequent Little Libraries and Pantries.
  11. Learn to build and maintain your own housing that creates its own energy, using local and recycled materials.
  12. Participate in local government, in your neighborhood, community, county and state. Let your ideals and principles spread into your community. Spread your joy in living simply.

Degrowth will not only allow our lives to be simpler and more enjoyable, it will go a long way to solving our current problems of high costs of housing, transportation and energy. It will reduce roadway congestion and encourage health and well-being, and reduce human impacts on what little is left of the natural world.

So what are we waiting for? Let’s start degrowing NOW!

Up next on We Live in the Natural World: Reduce Population Hereabouts.

Simply Sustainable Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Bioregion

We live in a discrete bioregion that is geographically constrained by Monterey Bay to the south and Santa Cruz Mountains to north. Our potable water comes largely from surface streams via limited storage reservoirs, with no option to import water from elsewhere. We have no airport, no railroad, and only two highways in and out of the county. We have extensive agricultural lands, irrigated largely from wells subject to overdraft and salt water intrusion. Agriculture in the county is dominated by the export of water intensive produce.

Despite these limitations we have a constantly growing human population, in communities subject to high demands for housing, resulting in a housing supply unaffordable for all but the most affluent buyers and renters. This, in part, has resulted in an extensive homeless population, with severe repercussions for our social and natural environment.

The local economy is traditionally based on tourism, dating from the 1800s, when tourists arrived by train. The construction of a paved highway to the greater Bay Area to the north, resulted in ever increasing private automobile traffic through the county, further exacerbated by the construction of a multi-lane freeway. Automobile culture quickly took over urban areas, resulting in suburban sprawl, business flight from downtown commercial areas to suburban malls, and increased private automobile commuting to high paying jobs “over the hill” in San Jose and San Francisco.

It’s increasingly evident that the current economic and political system in Our Fair County is dysfunctional, environmentally destructive and ultimately unsustainable. Economic and population growth cannot indefinitely continue in a constrained bioregion of finite resources. Potable water is the limiting factor to growth, a limit that cannot be violated. Though increased per capita efficiency can lower demand temporarily, population growth inevitably trumps per capita demand.

As a result, we’re locked into a one-way trip to unsustainability and societal collapse.

“If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Herbert Stein, What I Think: Essays on Economics, Politics, & Life

More accurately, I would say, “If something cannot go on forever, it will peter out.”

Given that our current economic and political system is unsustainable in Our Fair Bioregion, how to we get from here:

… to here?

And if we don’t, then what?

In my next post, I’ll review a remarkable video that explains how humans got to this point in our evolution, and I’ll explore the implications of our unsustainable dominant culture for the future of Homo sapiens, and all other species.

Santa Cruz Bioregion

A land dominated by water

We live in a bioregion defined by water, with a mountain divide to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, and numerous streams and a substantial river dividing up the land in between.

If we jump up real high, Santa Cruz County looks like this:

Pretty green, huh? Lots of forest, grassy plains on the coast. Not many signs of humans down there, just a couple of grey areas on the coast and one in the interior.

But where is the water?

If we take away the obscuring vegetation and the human roads and urban blotches, the Santa Cruz Bioregion looks like this:

The blue lines running throughout the topography are the streams, rivers and a few lakes, referred to as surface water.

The surface waters in the bioregion flow to the coast and the ocean, organized in drainages that flow to a common destination, called basins, like this:

Some of the basins include more than one stream that flows to the ocean independently of the others, draining unconnected areas called watersheds and flowing ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water.

The blue cross-hatched areas below are the streams and their surrounding drainages that supply water for human consumption, in addition to the rest of life, in the Santa Cruz Bioregion.

In addition, some human water consumption is taken from ground water in underground aquifers that are recharged through streams and local precipitation in areas appropriately shown below in aquamarine. Since the bioregion borders on the ocean, these aquifers are singularly susceptible to salt water intrusion, when they are drawn down below sea level by overpumping.

Water for all living things in the Santa Cruz Bioregion is local. There is no source of water from outside the bioregion. We all must live, here, with the water that is available naturally, in precipitation that fluctuates from season to season and year to year in natural cycles, as it has for millions of years.

The Santa Cruz Bioregion has a Mediterranean climate, with rains from October to May and little to no rain from June to September. Over the years, decades, centuries and millennia, the amount and timing of winter rains have fluctuated, in tune with decadal Pacific Ocean cycles that dominate our weather and climate patterns.

The dark upper line in the graph above shows yearly average precipitation from 1960 to 2011, from a high of 59 inches in 1983 to a low of 15 inches in 1989. The multi-colored spaghetti lying at the bottom of the graph are monthly precipitation totals for the same 50 year time period. It’s easy to see that the wildly fluctuating totals and timing of precipitation in our bioregion make the mathematical calculation of average or mean precipitation less than helpful when assessing concepts of climate variability.

In addition to varying chronological precipitation patterns, rainfall across the bioregion varies geographically. At times it will be cloudy and spitty on the coast, while in the mountains to the north its raining cats and dogs. Rainfall totals can vary 10 to 20 inches across the bioregion.

In recent years, our bioregion has experienced less rain than what we humans consider “normal,” or more correctly, what we have come to expect. We define this condition as “drought.”

But drought doesn’t mean there isn’t enough water. Drought is a human term that means there is too much demand for water for human use, above that required for all of the rest of the life that has evolved in this bioregion. Plants, birds, fish, mammals and myriads of micro-organisms in the living soil don’t do drought. They’ve evolved here with long term patterns of variable precipitation amounts and timing.

What is to be done?

The most obvious and logical response would be for us to plan for a human population level in this bioregion that does not demand more water than is naturally available, beyond that required by non-human species, during the most severe local drought. That way, there will always be enough water for all life, including humans, and in years when there’s more precipitation, we can stock up for the lean times.

Local water agencies are working on just this idea, pumping water down into the local aquifers in the winter rainy season to further replenish aquifers drawn down during the dry summer months.

That’s a good idea, but it is only temporary in a human world of unchecked population growth. As long as our local human economy is based on continuous growth, there will never be enough resources, most especially water, to go around. We must not only reduce our demand for water and other limited local resources, we must also learn to live in an economy that does not demand continuous growth.

Protecting the Natural World and its non-human inhabitants

‘Privates’ beach access approved for Santa Cruz County takeover – Santa Cruz Sentinel

This is another of those “Sounds like a good idea” ideas … have the County take over maintenance of access to a previously private beach.

But wait! Not discussed in this article is the fact that the County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services doesn’t have enough staff or budget to take care of the parks, beaches and other properties already included in its range of responsibilities.

What about Scott Creek Beach, north of Davenport? This beach is federally designated critical habitat for the western snowy plover, a threatened species that winters and attempts to nest on Scott Creek Beach every year.

From 1992 to 2016, the County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services managed a Snowy Plover Protection Program at Scott Creek Beach, which included 100 foot protection of snowy plover nesting sites from human interference, a prohibition of dogs and all pets from Scott Creek Beach, and regular patrols by County Sheriff Deputies to enforce County beach rules.

Five years ago, the County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services walked away from their obligation to protect the western snowy plover on Scott Creek beach, despite mandates from the County LCP/General Plan, the County’s own Habitat Conservation Plan for the Western Stony Plover from 1995, and from the US Fish and Wildlife snowy plover critical habitat designation for Scott Creek Beach.

Its not lack of resources and staff that keep County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services staff from carrying out their obligation, it is staff decisions to prioritize and allocate resources to other projects, such as dog swimming days at Simpkins Swim Center, Beginning Hip Hop for Kids and Adults, and Movie Nights at the Parks.

Interestingly the County Department of Parks, Open Space and Cultural Services webpage makes no mention of Open Space (the words do not appear anywhere) and resource conservation, despite their Vision statement:

We envision a healthy and vibrant county where everyone is able to be active, explore, learn, play and connect, and where our diverse natural and cultural resources are celebrated and protected for generations to come.

 Something is wrong here. If we don’t protect the natural world from human exploitation and over consumption, there will be no natural world to support us. 

We are one, this world and us. Let’s start acting like it!

Zoos are not a replacement for natural habitat

Effort to sustain endangered tarplant launches in Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz Sentinel: The city receives $22,000 grant from US Fish and Wildlife, that will fund 1,000 tarplant plantings at Arana Gulch.

This sounds like a good idea, a positive approach to an endangered species.

But is it?

Is an endangered species in a zoo the same as an endangered species on its own in the wild?

Is a tarplant zoo ecosystem the same as a natural, wild ecosystem?

Is a tarplant that has been planted in a greenhouse, germinated and transplanted outdoors the same as a tarplant that grows naturally in its own environment?

Different is not the same.

Human controlled plants are not the same as naturally growing plants.

This project to grow tarplants at Arana Gulch originated as a requirement for the construction of the Broadway-Brommer bicycle-pedestrian project, the paved bike road that destroyed more than an acre of rare federally threatened and state endangered tarplant habitat. 

The propaganda disseminated by the City of Santa Cruz and its Parks, Open Space and Recreation Department claimed that building the paved bike road through critical habitat was the only way to save the tarplant. In government speak: “We must destroy the village to save the village.”

Follow the path of destruction at Friends of Arana Gulch.

So that’s what they did. Now the City of Santa Cruz has the obligation to “save the tarplant,” even if that means growing plants in a greenhouse and planting them at Arana Gulch. At great expense. With no guarantee that the plants will survive and reproduce on their own.

Humans think that we can control everything, from climate to disease to species threatened and endangered by human growth and industrial development. 

This turns out not to be the case.

The only way to insure the survival of species other than Homo sapiens is stop destroying their natural habitats!

The Turn of the Season

We’re coming up on December 21/22, which humans call the Winter Solstice, which to the rest of life is the beginning of the return of the sun and all that portends.

We welcome the changes in daylight and weather brought by this annual progression. Perhaps it’s time to consider broader changes in the way we live in this world, changes to help us understand and embrace our place in the wider natural we world we so voluminously occupy.

The Pandemic

The Sars-COV-2/COVID-19 pandemic has been a revelation to many, and potentially to all humans, of the inextricable connections among humans and the natural world. The virus seems to have originated in wild animals, as we know many viruses do, making the leap from the natural world to human world via the human propensity to kill and eat wild and domesticated animals.

The global human response created and fostered within the dominant human social and economic paradigm, that is, industrial production of vaccines, is viewed as the silver bullet that will allow humans to continue to dominate and consume the natural world and keep what is considered normal human ways of living and being.

There is a growing awareness that this turns out not to be the case. We are learning that novel gene therapies (aka vaccines) are limited in efficacy and longevity, and bring with them problems and threats to human health of their own (Vaccine vs. natural immunity). We are brought, kicking and screaming, dragging great furrows in corporate plush carpeting, to the realization that human health is a process of general healthy living, not the profit-making pharmacopoeia foist on the public by the corporatized medical intervention industry, riding to the rescue in white coats and N95 masks, bearing their syringes on high, dripping with a magic elixir of immunity to the natural world.

The term “comorbidity” is the polite, Woke way of telling us, without having to admit to it openly, that obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, stress and lack of sleep are unhealthy and make humans increasingly vulnerable to natural viruses and bacteria. Humans have evolved over millennia with a plethora of invisible organisms, a host of which make up the bulk of our bodies. It is only the dominant lifestyles prevalent in our modern world, coupled with a vastly crowded, overpopulated human built environment, that allows and encourages pandemics to occur and wreak such havoc in the human world.

Health in All Communities

What is needed at this point is not more corporate medical intervention from a for-profit medical products industry. What we need need is community health care focused on our place in the community of all life on this planet (Pandemic as a life lesson for the human species). We need to focus on our own responsibility for the state of our personal health as well as the health of our interwoven human and non-human communities.

This focus on the community of life flows into approaches to many of the problems facing our communities today: homelessness, crime, resource limitations, habitat loss, transportation, meaningful work, quality of life, access to essential goods and services.

The Unspeakable

Foremost in all of the problems in this world is human population growth. There are simply too many people consuming too much, in a real world of finite resources essential to all life. This is the ultimate cause of all the problems listed above. More people means more people doing bad things, to other humans and to the general environment roundabout.

Ironically, this is the one aspect of human life that we do not openly discuss! Population control is considered racist, pitting the global north against the global south, countries against countries, communities against communities, neighborhoods against neighborhoods, neighbors against neighbors. Otherwise positive and effective environmental organizations fall on their own swords when confronted with the undeniably destructive effects of human population growth on the natural world.

Populations dynamics is one of the common ecological features of human and non-human populations, carrying capacity the measure of the ability of an ecosystem to sustain a population of any species, or any combination of species. It is clear that global human population has far exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity for the human species (We have only one Earth — so treat it nicely; Survey measures our collective impacts).

To address human impacts on the health of all communities, human and non-human, we must come to terms with human population growth and resource consumption. We must find some means of both curtailing human population growth and reducing human resource consumption (CASSE). If we can’t limit human profligacy, natural ecological processes will take over and reduce human excess swiftly and effectively, just as they apply to all species who outgrow their supportive ecosystems.

Dawn or Dusk?

It’s our choice. Work to limit and control human population growth and resource consumption or sit back and watch as Nature does it for us.

As the sun turns in its eternal cycles, Nature is tapping her toes, waiting for upstart humans to wake up and join the rest of the global community of life.

Limit Population Hereabouts

Yes, I know, I’ve said it here many times before:

I’m not alone in this understanding, you know. Others have noticed the propensity of humans to breed ourselves out of house and home:

It’s a zero sum game. Impact = Consumption X Population. For high energy consumers to live in increasing numbers and increasing consumption, the way we live, other living beings cannot. We grow and consume at the expense of others, human and non-human alike. It’s called our ecological footprint:

Despite the inescapable limitations of the natural world we live in, local, state and national governments operate blithely as if there are no limits to human growth and consumption. For example, in Our Fair County and Cities:

The Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday learned that the city’s RHNA requirement [Regional Housing Needs Allocation] is expected to more than quadruple for the next cycle. In fact, it’s housing supply requirement is estimated to be four-and-a-half times what it was in 2015.

For the fifth cycle, which concludes at the end of 2023, Santa Cruz was tasked with developing a minimum of 747 new housing units. Now, the state may expect as many as 3,400 new housing units from the city by the end of 2031, according to the AMBAG [Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments] draft Regional Housing Needs Allocation plan it submitted on Nov. 22.

Where does the RHNA come from and how is it determined?

In a letter to AMBAG from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in 2013, the the Deputy Director explained:

In completing AMBAG’s RHNA, the Department applied methodology and assumptions regarding the following factors (Government Code Section 65584.01(c)(1)):

  • anticipated household growth associated with projected population increases;
  • household size data and trends in household size;
  • rate of household formation, or headship rates, based on age, gender, ethnicity, or other established demographic measures;
  • vacancy rates in existing housing stock, and for healthy housing market functioning and regional mobility, as well as housing replacement needs;
  • other characteristics of the composition of the projected population; and
  • the relationship between jobs and housing, including any imbalance between jobs and housing.

So the number of new housing units the state expects the county and cities to provide is determined solely on human economic and population trends factors, with no consideration whatsoever of local economic, demographic, environmental, geographic or natural resource limitations to human population growth!

This is indeed the ideology of the cancer cell.

More housing means more people. More people means more cars on the streets and highways and more wear and tear of those streets and highway requiring more maintenance by already understaffed Public Works departments. More people means more crime demanding increased police and sheriff personnel and budgets. More people means more demand for electricity (remember, all the new housing must be all electric) requiring more solar panel and wind farms covering sensitive natural habitat. More people means more Amazon, UPS and FedEx trucks plying neighborhood streets delivering more unneeded plastic crap from China and more garbage and recycling delivered to already overburdened landfills. More people demand more county and city social services from already underfunded and under staffed county and city departments. More people means more wear and tear on county and city parks managed by already underfunded and under staffed parks departments. More people means more consumption of increasingly scarce natural resources, locally, regionally, nationally and globally.

More housing means less open space, less natural habitat, less wildlife, fewer trees, less water, less clean air, water and soil, more noise and less quiet, less climate resilience, less Nature.

Do we really want to live in a teeming termitarium dominated by concrete glass and steel towers blocking the sky and increasing the urban island heat bubble? Do we really want to live in isolated intensely urban housing units, devoid of daily access to the natural world?

No other species grows without limits in a world of finite resources. This is not only inhuman, it is unnatural.

“Things that cannot go on forever, stop.” Herbert Stein, The Wall Street Journal, 1985